New Discoveries at Ramses -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 21:1 (Winter 2008)
Article: New Discoveries at Ramses
Author: Bryant G. Wood


New Discoveries at Ramses

Bryant G. Wood

In the Spring 2004 issue of Bible and Spade, I reported on the important discovery of a royal precinct at Rameses, the setting of events recorded in the early chapters of Exodus (reprinted in this issue). The article summarizes the results of excavations undertaken from 1993 to 2000. In the present article I would like to bring readers up to date with the results of further work at the site in the fall of 2004 and spring of 2005, based on a preliminary report published by the excavators (Bietak and Foster-Müller 2005).1

At the time of the Exodus in 1446 BC, the name of the city was probably Perunefer (Bietak 2005), meaning “happy journey.” The name was later changed to Rameses when the city was rebuilt by the famous Rameses II in the 13th century BC.2 The palatial district in Moses’ day occupied an area of some 13.6 acres (5.5 ha) on the east bank of the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile, now dried up, at the modern village of ‘Ezbet Helmi. Both geomagnetic surveys3 and excavation have been employed to elucidate the remains. The complex was comprised of three palaces (F, G, and J) and associated outbuildings within a perimeter wall. Palaces F and G are parallel to each other, on either side of an artificial lake or large central

Map of excavation areas at Rameses. A number of ancient cities were located in this region throughout Egyptian history, requiring excavations over a large area. The locale is generally referred to as Tell el-Dab‘a, after the name of the village where archeological investigations began. In reality, however, excavations have been carried out at a number of small agricultural villages in the vicinity. The royal precinct discussed in this article is at the village of ‘Ezbet Helmi, indicated by the red circle. When Jacob and his family first came to the town, called Rowaty (“the door of the two roads”) at that time, they settled in the area of Tell el-Dab‘a (Wood 1997). The royal city of Rameses II in the 13th century BC is located in the area labeled “Town Center 19th Dyn.” to the north. (From Bietak and Foster-Müller 2005: 66; reprinted by permission of the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, Austria.)

Geomagnetic survey and excavated areas at ‘Ezbet Helmi. Palaces F and G are shown in green and Palace J in red. The gray areas are where geomagnetic surveys have been done, revealing ma...

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